Sweeney Todd The Demon Barber of Fleet Street ~ Derby Theatre

Sweeney Todd The Demon Barber of Fleet Street stays at Derby Theatre until Saturday 22 October and transfers to Mercury Theatre in Colchester from 29 October to 12 November 2016.

Book tickets for Derby here: https://www.derbytheatre.co.uk/sweeney-todd-demon-barber-fleet-street-musical-thriller

Book tickets for The Mercury Theatre here: https://www.mercurytheatre.co.uk/event/sweeney-todd-the-demon-barber-of-fleet-street/

Star Rating: ****

One of Sondheim’s best-loved musicals was brought deliciously to life at Derby Theatre, last night. It has been ably directed by Daniel Buckroyd and his take on it has cemented the story far more favourably in my affections. This has not previously been on my list of favourites.

This was an atmospheric piece indeed, with a magnificent on-stage orchestra and an innovative set on a revolve, which moved the action along smoothly. It was far from the gore fest that some interpretations take the angle of, and instead, focused on the journey and meatiness of the characters and on bringing out the best of the vocal abilities of the cast. I’m sure the latter was not a difficult feat as the cast as an ensemble are a triumph and Mrs Lovett, in this production is far from being the worst and is possibly the best one I’ve seen.

Sophie-Louise Dann is an incredible Mrs Lovett

The story of Sweeney Todd (Hugh Maynard) follows the vengeance of a Barber from Fleet Street who has been wrongly imprisoned due to the lustful greed of Judge Turpin (David Durham) who has taken a shine to Todd’s (then known as Benjamin Barker) unsuspecting wife, Lucy. Todd, having served 15 years in prison, returns to London in the hope of finding his wife and child waiting for him. The news that Turpin has his child, Johanna (Christina Bennington), as his ward adds extra impudence to his quest to dispose of the Judge. His travelling companion, Anthony (Jack Wilcox) discovers Johanna and falls in love with her, he has no knowledge that she is Todd’s daughter. Add Mrs Lovett of the pie shop (Sophie-Louise Dann) to the mix, an old admirer of the vengeful Barber, who has a plot in mind to help her business and to dispense with the various victims who unwittingly take a seat in Todd’s Barber’s chair. They don’t call it a musical thriller for nowt!

The Judge (David Durham) with Johanna (Christina Bennington)

Maynard makes for a menacing and increasingly psychotic Todd, he has the voice for the part and I felt that he came into his own when he sang ‘My Friends’. I enjoyed Maynard’s scenes with Julian Hoult, who played Bamford, Hoult was simpering and sneering as the Beadle and I thought he rivalled Timothy Spall’s portrayal in the movie version. Likewise, Simon Shorten gave a terrific performance as Pirelli, he moved seamlessly between accents during his interaction with Todd and I am keen to see more of Shorten’s work in the future. Kara Lane was inspired as the ever-present beggar woman, she brought comic melancholy to the role and subtle suggestion that there was more to her part in the story. Christina Bennington is stunning as Johanna, a beautiful voice and she played her with sweet gentility, the chemistry with Jack Wilcox as Anthony was a joy to behold. Wilcox sang ‘Johanna’ so hauntingly, you could have heard a pin drop in the auditorium and his diction was perfect. Ryan Heenan is a wondrous Tobias, I thought that the intricacies of the character’s blossoming mother/son relationship with Mrs Lovett was one of the highlights of the show. With Imelda Staunton’s Mrs Lovett still fresh in my mind, we come to Sophie-Louise Dann’s interpretation, and it’s my favourite to date. The comedy that she brought out in the role was exceptional, from the timing to the little asides that didn’t go unnoticed. Dann ceaselessly brought more and more to the performance and just when I thought she’d given it everything, she proved me wrong and sky-rocketed high above the rafters. ‘By The Sea’ was glorious, Dann’s vocal ability captured the nuances of the number, spectacularly.

With Halloween fast approaching, the timing for this production couldn’t be better, it’s a grisly tale with a tragic heart and the show has been given a new lease of life through this incarnation. A truly extraordinary experience at the theatre.








Spotlight On… Glenn Adamson

Glenn Adamson has just completed a run in The Rise and Fall of Little Voice at The Union Theatre. He’s also been asked back to appear in pantomime at The Mercury Theatre, but what have his career highlights been to date and how did he come to be an performer? I found out!

How have you enjoyed the role of Billy in The Rise and Fall of Little Voice and how familiar were you with the piece prior to landing the part?

I’m originally a northern boy and now live in Leeds between jobs. So I love the strong northern writing of Little Voice, and I actually think I’ve met all of these characters at some point (that’s a scary thought). I first saw the play at the West Yorkshire Playhouse a couple of years ago, I loved it so much I went back the next night. I knew then I wanted to be in this play and Billy is the obvious role (though I’d happily audition for LV) so I jumped at the chance to audition.

Have you a favourite scene or moment in the show?

I love the celebration dance off between Sadie and Mari to ‘Jackson Five’. You laugh, you cringe, but we’ve all done it at some point in our lives – when you are so happy and the only way to express it is to dance! I also look forward to that because we all give it beans with our own routine back stage, if you could see into the wings you’d see the remaining cast members throwing some serious shapes!

Has your perception of your character and indeed the story altered as the show has progressed?

The idea of Billy climbing LV’s bedroom window to speak to her, when he barely knows her, is quite a creepy notion. How would you react if a stranger starts banging on your window! I felt like a creep doing it at first, but now I’ve realised he’s just willing to do anything to get through to this girl. She’s a rare find for Billy, they are both surrounded by big characters in a world of noise and chaos, and they both are quiet and introverted. He finds his parallel in LV and he’ll stop at nothing to make her notice him. I imagine they are probably each other’s first and only friends, people are quick to give up on quiet people, they mistake shyness for rudeness or stupidity, when actually they are just observing the world and taking it all in. He’s so eager for a like minded friend and he finds her.

What led you to follow a performing career?

I was very theatrical from a young age, always playing characters and putting on performances for anyone that would watch. As I got older I became quite shy and thrived off the idea of being someone else for a small period of time. I was so confident when I was pretending to be someone else but not as Glenn. So my parents sent me to the local youth theatre and I thrived there. Glenn the actor was much more confident than Glenn the school boy. I refused to do any drama at school, I was too afraid of people seeing that side of me. I still find it much easier to get on stage in front of an audience than I would to talk to a stranger for the first time.

Any highlights so far?

I did a national tour of ‘Secret Love: The Doris Day Story’ and played Doris’ son. It was filled with soft shoe dances and amazing songs. It was a great meaty role and I was working with great actors that taught me lots about how to survive in this industry. My favourite jobs are always the ones where I’m the youngest in the cast, everyone takes you under their wings and you get adopted theatre parents for the run. I realise it’s not going to be that way forever, thus far though I’ve always been the youngest in any cast I’ve been in. Long may it continue!!

What is your advice for people who wish to follow a career in performing arts?

I went straight to drama school at 18. I sometimes think that’s too young to go and train. I was so eager to be out in the industry. But at 18 its such a big change just to leave home and live alone, let alone some of the pressures of drama school and the things you have to do. I’d tell an 18 year old me, to take a year to find myself, do all the things you can’t do as an actor, like travelling the world etc. It’s so hard to play a range of other complex characters on stage when you don’t really know who you are yet! Once your out of drama school for the first two years just take whatever comes you way, you learn on the job.

Finally, a little birdie tells me you’re playing Dick Whittington this Christmas, are you excited to be performing in another pantomime and what do you enjoy most about panto?

Yes I can’t wait. I’m heading back to The Mercury Theatre in Colchester after playing Aladdin for them last year. I love it there, I’ve never known such a friendly welcoming environment. I’m just grateful they haven’t got sick of me yet. The Mercury really get it, they keep in all the stuff families love splosh scenes and ghost gags etc, but they write their actors a really strong script and a beautiful score to sing. So everyone’s happy! It’s not too cheesy but still has the family magic.

 Thanks to Glenn for chatting to Break A Leg, I can testify that he was the perfect Billy in The Rise and Fall of Little Voice and best wishes are sent to him for future projects and indeed, panto! Oh yes they are….

Feature Photo credit: Scott Rylander

Spotlight On… Tracey Childs

February’s Spotlight On……

*** Tracey Childs ***


Can you tell us about your new permanent role at the Mercury Theatre and what it was that attracted you to it?

I love Colchester Mercury Theatre – it was the first ‎theatre I visited when I moved to Essex, it was the first theatre I ever did a co-production with as a producer (Haunting Julia) and it was the first theatre where I was recruited to serve on the board so – when the producer role was advertised I knew I had to apply.

I hadn’t been looking for a permanent job but it felt like such a perfect fit that I was prepared to relinquish being an independent producer and a freelance actor. Now I have discovered the joy of getting paid regularly and having weekends (almost) off – bliss!

Does this mean that you’ve effectively ‘given up’ acting or are you of the opinion ‘never say never’?

I love producing, being proactive and making things happen (rather than waiting for the phone to ring) but never say never. The joy of my current position is that acting is now just fun for me. I occasionally do voice overs or Big Finish Dr Who audio plays or, in April I’m going to the Isle of Wight to do a poetry evening with 3 girlfriends, all of which are great fun and stop me missing acting. However, producing is absolutely my priority.

If you were to consider acting again, would there be a particular role or show which would force your arm towards that direction?

Curiously, my greatest ‘must play role’ was always Lady Macbeth and what was the show playing in the Main House when I joined The Mercury? Macbeth! I can honestly say I was too busy relishing my new Producer role here to spend a second thinking ‘what if…’ Therefore I am not sure what would tempt me back. I never expected to find anything I loved as much as acting but actually I find producing far more fulfilling. Lucky me!

Can we expect anymore productions from ‘Hall & Childs’ in the future?

Andrew and I are currently taking ‘a deep breath’ but watch this space, there will be more to come, I’m sure.

Which current theatrical production would you recommend that all our readers must go and see?

‘Sweeney Todd in Harringtons Pie and Mash shop’ I saw it at Tooting and LOVED it. I am so proud to be Associate Producer on this transfer to a restaurant pop-up on Shaftesbury Avenue. The joy of this talented cast standing on your table singing their hearts out is so exhilarating.


Favourite things (quick fire questions):

Favourite musical?

The Hired Man to listen to, Chicago to watch and High Society to appear in – Tracy Lord was one of my favourite roles ever – and yes, I know that’s three. I’m greedy, sorry.

Favourite co-star?

Matthew Kelly – has to be. We’ve worked together and played husband and wife umpteen times and it is always a delight. To know and love someone so well that on the first day of rehearsal you can say ‘OK, let’s go for it, you hit me and I’ll spit on you’ is very comforting!

Favourite food? (e.g. Italian, Chinese…)

FOOD! All food! I told you, I am a very greedy woman but, if I had to choose one then, Italian because it encompasses so many different choices.

Favourite animal?

Too hard to choose. I had always had dogs but, when I started working too much to own one, my husband bought me a huge rabbit hutch that has been filled with rescue bunnies until the last one died last week – I am missing them like hell but last summer I discovered the joy of kittens and currently our rescue brother and sister tabbies ‘Mr Spats’ and ‘Lulu’ are filling our lives with joy.

Favourite Doctor Who?

I grew up with Jon Pertwee but I would have to say Matt Smith – I think he was glorious – I am also loving seeing ‘my husband’ Peter Capaldi now playing the role and suspect he may become joint first VERY soon.

The Good (Inte)review – Gwen Taylor

Interview by Helen and Garry McWilliams

Hello Gwen, thank you for talking to The Good Review – are you enjoying the tour of ‘Driving Miss Daisy’ and what was it like having the break at Christmas between tours?

First of all, I love this play and I love ‘Miss Daisy’ – the tour has been tiring so it will be good to have a rest at the end of it, but I couldn’t turn this part down. It was lovely to have Christmas off but lovely to get back to it again.

Which theatre has been your favourite on the tour?

I have to say Derby because it’s my home town and they make an enormous fuss of me in Derby because I know everybody and they know me. Otherwise I would say Mold because we weren’t expecting the reaction that we had there.

Which do you prefer between an old theatre or the newer build theatres?

I like either, as far as the set for the play is concerned this theatre [Wolverhampton Grand] has a lovely big stage and plenty of space which makes a difference. The dressing room’s quite nice too!

What’s it like working with Don Warrington and Ian Porter?

Oh they’re both a joy to work with, we all get on very well and I’ve worked with Ian before. Ian understudied the role of Boolie in the West End and he’s solid as a rock.

After all these years treading the boards and appearing on screen, do you still get nervous? If so how do you handle the nerves?

I do still get nervous, I just take a few deep breaths and try not to think about it too much.

Do you agree that it wouldn’t be right if you didn’t get nervous?

Well that’s what people say, but it would be nice not to, but I don’t mind if I do because it’s an exciting job and a responsible job. Especially in theatre where the audience have paid their money. Television I don’t tend to, except when there’s an audience if you’re filming a sit com, but even then I don’t worry because I know it can be re-taken. I used to pride myself on not making mistakes, though.

What advice have you got for anyone who wants to become an actor?

I wouldn’t give advice, if you’ve got to do it you’ll do it and if you’re tough enough you’ll get on, if you’re not you’ll get hurt. It’s such a strange business and breaking into it is strange. I was 30 when I started out, though so there is time for people. Ideally I suppose write your own play, put it on and get people to come and see it – although I don’t really know what the answer is.

It’s a difficult business because you don’t know where your next job is coming from?

There’s that and it’s difficult if you’ve got family. There was a Northern Irish actor who worked with Graham (Graham Reid – Gwen’s husband who is a playwright) in his plays and came one day and said he was going to give it up because he couldn’t tell his two daughters when they could go on holiday the next year. He misses acting but at least he can tell his girls when they can go away on holiday.

With Wolverhampton being the final stop for ‘Daisy’, have you got anything in the pipeline after the tour has ended?

‘Butterfly Lion’ again in the autumn, I’m down to do a 14 week tour of that. Also Graham has a new play opening in Belfast at the Lyric Theatre on 1st May, it’s called ‘Love, Billy’.

Do you still enjoy touring?

I do although it is tiring, but I wouldn’t do it without Graham. It also depends on the part though. Of course it’s lovely to be able to play a role close to home, but I wouldn’t go in the West End just for the sake of being close to home.

Would you go back to ‘Coronation Street’ if they asked you?

Well they did say would you be available again and I said I’d love to go back but only if there was a good storyline, otherwise I don’t really see a reason for the character to return.

Thanks to Gwen for talking to us, please see Garry’s review of ‘Driving Miss Daisy’ at Wolverhampton Grand Theatre and look out for the tour of ‘Butterfly Lion’ which opens in Colchester at Mercury Theatre on 5th September 2013. Also watch out for Graham Reid’s play ‘Love, Billy’ and visit http://www.lyrictheatre.co.uk for information and to book tickets.

First Published 12.04.13

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